Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Brooklyn Gentrification Tour to Raise Funds for The Bronx African American History Project

A Brookyn Gentrification Tour to Raise Funds for the Bronx African American History Project

Back in the late 90's when I was starting to build the Urban Studies Program at Fordham into to the premier undergraduate program of its kind at any university in New York City, which it still is today, I used to take my Urban Studies students on all day tours of Brooklyn, We would begin in Greenpoint, Brooklyn's largest Polish neighborhood, where we would eat kielbasa, then take a quick stop in Williamburgh to see the Hasidic community and pass by Peter Lugers, go through Fort Green and Clinton Hill on our way into Crown Heights, head over into Browsville where we would get beef and chicken patties from Golden Krust, drive into Canarsie where we would shoot baskets and hit golf balls in Canarsie Park, get on the Belt Parkway where we drive to Coney Island, get hot dogs at Nathan's and visit the housing project where Stephon Marbury learned to play ball, get on Coney Island Avenue where we would drive through Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods and then visit the South Asian Muslim communnity between Church Avenues and Avenue H, then head into Park Slope where we would get pastries from Cousin Johns Bakery.

Needless to say, this tour was extremely popular, even though it produced an average weight gain of 5 to 6 pounds. The sound track to the tour would be a Biggie Smalls/ JZ mixtape my son gave to me, beginning with their classic "Brooklyn's Finest. We always kept the windows open with the volume on full blast and astonished people in passing cars who looked in and saw a groups of blacks and whites, men and women led by a fifty something professor. Some cars almost got in accidents when they saw who was in the van!

Over the years, I have gotten many requests to do this tour again, but never have had the time because the Bronx African American History Project has swallowed up my time and energy.

However, I have figured out a way to do this again that will "kill two birds with one stone." Because the Bronx AA History Project desperately needs funds to pay its staff, I have decided to offer van tours of Brooklyn for 4-5 people in return for $300-$500 contributions to the Bronx African American History Project

However, in light of certain changes that have taken place in Brooklyn, the theme of the tour, and its location will change slightly, although we will try to preserve the weight gain!

In the last five years, North Brooklyn neighborhoods have been deluged with literally hundreds of new luxury condominium buildings, many of them tasteless, intrusive and completely out of touch with the architecture of the communities in which they have been located. Worse yet, a good number of these
buildings, built in the height of speculative boom, stand empty or marginally occupied Some have been abandoned when partially completed

Most people have no idea of the sheer number of buildings we are talking about. There are literally
HUNDREDS of such buildings in Greenpoint, Williamsburgh, Dumbo, Vinegar Hill, Flatbush Extension,
Fort Green, Clinton Hill Prospect Heights, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope.

No one has ever actually counted these buildings, or taken stock of what they have done to community life in Brooklyn. In joining this tour, you will be helping to tell a story that needs to be told!

Our tour will start out in Park Slope, where we will begin on 4th Avenue and 25th street and drive up 4th Avenue, with occasional ventures into side streets all the way to Flatbush Avenue, drive to see the new 30 foot high luxury towers built on Flatbush Extension near the Manhattan Bridge ( after first stopping to pick up a Junior's cheescake) then head over into Williamsburgh, where we will visit the New luxury towers being build along the waterfront, them drive over into McCarran Park in Greenpoint where perhaps the largest and ugliest concentration of new buildings have been placed, then head down into Clinton Hill, where a drive
down Washington Avenue will take us by at least 20 new construction, head down into Prospect Heights where a super expensive new luxury building, which is almost entirely empty, has been put up on Grand Army Plaza, Our final stop is Park Slope where the group will repair to my house where we will get great Chinese take out from Szechuan Delight

The Sound track for this trip will be Hip Hop from the Great Brooklyn MC's Biggie Smalls, JZ and Big Daddy Kane, along with the great Afro Cuban Mix put together by Beat Mann and DJ Charley Hustle

The tour will take place on weekdays in the Summer beginning 10 AM, at my house in Brooklyn, and ending 3 PM at the same location

Groups wanting to take the tour should email me at, or The contribution for the tour must take the form of a check made out to the Bronx African American History Project

I look forward to hearing from you. Let's make history together!


Mark Naison

Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University
Principal Investigator
Bronx African American History Project

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